He may not boast the household name status of contemporaries such as Skepta and Dizzee Rascal, but Justin Clarke – aka Ghetts – is undoubtedly one of the titans of the grime world. Originally a member of the legendary NASTY Crew and one of the creators of The Movement, the Plaistow-born MC, rapper and songwriter has carved out a reputation as one of grime’s best lyricists since releasing his first mixtape back in 2005. As respected by critics as those within scene itself, he has also managed to stay true to his roots over the years, swerving obstacles like the late noughties grime-pop crossover while continuing to evolve his sound in exciting new ways.
After more than 15 years of hard graft, Ghetts’ new LP Conflict of Interest marks the first time that he has dipped his toe into the waters of major label life, thanks to the backing of Warner Records. Clocking in at over an hour long, the album features all the dynamic genre-hopping we’ve come to expect from him, with everything from gospel to drill getting a look in. It’s also a deeply personal record for the rapper, now aged 36, tracing his journey to becoming both a father and one of the pillars of Black British music.
“I never had the concept of the album until further in. I record so many songs that it was just loads of random songs and sounds, then I think I found a sure five … and it started to shape the soundscape and the concept,” Ghetts tells CR over Zoom, during the mid-lockdown promo run for his new record. “I came up with the concept Conflict of Interest because I feel like I’m a very conflicted person, like most of us. And I also realised my biggest weakness is always trying to choose one type of style, or type of mindset, where if I could let them live in harmony, I guess it would make me a better me.”